The Dirt and Ice Training Program
So far, this ski season has been a little disappointing. After a fast start with a big storm bringing us over a foot of snow and fresh powder runs to begin the season, subsequent snow has been slow to come. In fact, it has probably disappeared more than it has accumulated over the last six weeks. When you take into account a couple stretches of warm weather (like mid-fifty degree temperatures on Christmas Day), it is amazing that there is any snow left at all. It’s only thanks to the snowmakers at the local mountain that I have been able to keep consistently skiing this season.
With conditions being less than stellar, the demotivating effect of the minor amount of snowfall we received, and all of the hullabaloo of the holidays, I feel like skiing in December slipped away from me. But with the new year comes new resolutions, and re-discovering my skiing mojo has become a top priority. I’ve realized that one of the crazy things about skiing is that sometimes if you keep waiting for optimal conditions, you’ll just end up missing out.
In a recent conversation about current ski area conditions, I described the average run as a patch of ice broken up with intermittent sections of dirt. In response, a friend of mine summed up the New England ski experience and made a good case for getting out, even in less than ideal conditions: “Skiing on dirt makes you a better skier. It keeps you light on your feet and helps you enhance the technical skills you gain from skiing on ice the rest of the year.” I don’t think truer words about sub-par ski conditions have ever been spoken. I can only hope that, someday, I’ll have that type of glass-half-full optimism.
In just one sentence—one text message—my friend summed up what I have been trying to say for three years in this blog. The days aren’t always going to be perfect, but go out and get what you can, while you can. Lately I have been dragging myself out of bed to do a couple early morning skin laps at the local resort before work. Most mornings it’s really cold, I’m really tired, and the last thing I want to do is get out of bed. Typically, as I skin uphill in the morning, I dodge groomers, fight the predawn cold, and choose my route up and down the mountain to avoid snowmaking. The trails are usually icy, and no one is going to be particularly jealous of the quality skiing I am doing—but even as I write this, knowing that none of it sounds very pleasurable, the truth is that there hasn’t been a single morning where I got in my car afterward and regretted doing it.
Just being happy to get out and make the most of a day seems like a noble pursuit and if learning how to send a dirt patch is a skill I acquire, even better. In fact, the major benefits I’ve seen from these early morning excursions is that my familiarity with my gear has grown, my packing has become more efficient (as well as my transitions), and my layering systems are being dialed in. When the real snow finally comes, I will be ready and my technique will be spot on thanks to my dirt and ice training program.